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Burns: 3 Things we learned from a Swedish sweep

Beat writer Bryan Burns recaps Tampa Bay's 5-3 win over Buffalo in Stockholm on Saturday

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

Turns out, the Tampa Bay Lightning just needed to travel nearly 5,000 miles from AMALIE Arena to find their game.

The Lightning picked up where they left off Friday in Stockholm, playing the style of game they feel will carry them past the finish line in their chase for the Stanley Cup. The Bolts held the majority of the puck possession, defended smartly and won the special-teams battle to complete the two-game sweep of the Buffalo Sabres at the NHL Global Series following a 5-3 win Saturday.

The Lightning had lost three of four entering Sweden.

They return home with four crucial points, a shrinking gap in the Atlantic Division standings and much-needed momentum heading into a (finally) favorable portion of the schedule where 16 of the next 22 games will be contested at AMALIE Arena.

How did the Bolts pull off the Swedish sweep?

Here were our three main takeaways from the back-to-back wins.

Video: BUF@TBL: Gourde chips puck home off the draw

1. GRIT (and scoring) FROM 4TH LINE
Since Yanni Gourde has joined Pat Maroon and Cedric Paquette on Tampa Bay's fourth line, that combination has proved fruitful for the Lightning.

In Friday's win, Gourde scored the game-winning goal.

Saturday, the fourth line scored two of Tampa Bay's five goals - including another game-winner from Gourde - to power the Lightning past the Sabres.

With the Lightning leading 2-1, Maroon established a two-goal advantage right before the second intermission, the power forward whacking at a loose puck on the edge of the crease until he was finally able to put one past Sabres goalie Carter Hutton just three seconds from the break. Maroon scored earlier in the game on a first period power play, giving him his first multi-goal game since the 2017-18 season while a member of the Edmonton Oilers.

"He does so many things off the ice and away from the play on the ice that help the team," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said of Maroon. "He wasn't just brought in here to be that big body on the ice. He was brought in here because he was part of a special group last year. He knows what it takes. He's really helped bring this team together. He's a guy that always wants to do stuff as a team, and that's helped our leadership group for sure to just have a different perspective. When he does have the confidence to have the puck in the offensive zone for as much as he did these last two games, it's kind of an element that we've never had, someone of that size on our team."

After Buffalo cut the Lightning lead to 3-2 early in the third period, Gourde re-established Tampa Bay's two-goal advantage, scoring directly off a face-off for his fourth goal of the season.

Gourde has netted a goal in three-consecutive games since joining the fourth line and tied the longest goal streak on the Lightning this season.

"(Maroon) brings a different dynamic, and Ceddy and Gourdo, they kind of feed off each other," Stamkos said. "They were huge for us the last two games."

Altogether, Gourde, Paquette and Maroon accounted for six of Tampa Bay's 14 points. All three players posted multi-point games, their first of the season.

Video: BUF@TBL: Maroon credited with PPG after puck pinballs

2. POWER PLAY HEATING UP
Tampa Bay's power play ranked sixth in the NHL entering Saturday's game, yet it felt like that unit hadn't hit its stride, particularly after finishing the 2018-19 season tops in the League at a 28.2 percent success rate, the 10th-best conversion percentage in League history.

Of late, however, the Bolts' power play has started to heat up, and it's allowed the team to finally start winning some special teams battles.

Saturday against Buffalo, the power play did a lot of the heavy lifting in the Lightning's 5-3 victory. The Bolts scored on their first two power plays to establish control in the game.

Trailing 1-0 after Sam Reinhart scored the third of his three goals of the series at 9:30, the Lightning leveled the score three minutes from the first intermission, Maroon's body deflecting Yanni Gourde's shot past Hutton in the waning seconds of the Lightning's opening power play.

Early in the second period, the Lightning pulled in front for good thanks to another power-play conversion. On this one, Victor Hedman, playing in his home country, blasted a shot from a few strides inside the blue line into the net for a 2-1 Tampa Bay lead at 1:58 of the middle frame.

Ironically, Tampa Bay's third power play late in the second period might have been its best of the three. The Lightning possessed the puck inside the offensive zone for all two minutes. They generated numerous Grade-A scoring chances and had Hutton and his penalty killers scrambling around his crease to keep shots out. The only thing the Lightning didn't do on that power play was score.

"Our special teams haven't been that great coming into the trip," Stamkos said. "When the PK is good and the power play gets a couple goals, it makes the rest of the game a little easier when you not only get confidence but you get production. It was big these last two games."

Tampa Bay's penalty kill went 2-for-2 on Saturday, the third-straight game it hasn't allowed an opponent power-play goal. Combined with their power-play prowess, the Lightning decidedly won special teams Saturday.

Video: BUF@TBL: Hedman cranks home PPG in Sweden

3. HEDDY'S HOMECOMING
Victor Hedman said listening to the Swedish national anthem inside Stockholm's Ericsson Globe moments before the start of the NHL Global Series on Friday was one of the highlights of his career.

It'll be interesting to see where the Ornskoldsvik native ranks scoring a NHL goal in his home country.

The Swedish defenseman provided the pivotal moment for the Lightning Saturday, ripping a shot from the blue line into the back of the net on an early second period power play that put the Bolts in front for the first time.

It's a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

On the play, Nikita Kucherov took possession of the puck in the right circle and dished cross-ice to Stamkos in the left circle. From there, the Lightning captain dropped a pass back for Hedman to one-time high over the glove of Hutton. When Hedman missed a pair of games with a lower-body injury while the team was on its New York road trip, Tampa Bay saw its power play dip, the blast from the point no longer a concern for the opponent.

With Hedman back in the fold, the Lightning have all the components of their power play at their disposal, and they've used them to their advantage.

"I think it was a little emotional for him to come out and play here and play as well as he did," Stamkos said. "It was nice to see him get the goal tonight. For all the Swedish players on both teams, it was special. But Heddy kind of stole the show."

Hedman reportedly got the loudest ovation for any player inside the Ericsson Globe. The media requests for the defenseman reached Stanley Cup Final levels.

Hedman took the extra attention in stride with his usual unflappable demeanor and provided a memorable experience for himself and his Lightning teammates.

"I do feel a little bad for him with how much running around he had to do this trip. He was everywhere," Stamkos said. "To be the guy that Heddy is, he embraced it all. He was such a great host for us."

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